Sunday, 16 June 2013
Between Scylla and Charybdis on Bloomsday
Men is straw boaters and stripped blazers, carrying walking canes; women in Edwardian dresses with parasols; cyclists enjoying the pedestrianised inner city streets; crowds caught up in the bustle between Davy Byrne’s and the Bailey on Duke Street – the Scylla and Charybdis in Episode 9 of James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which Leopold Bloom has a gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of burgundy In Davy Byrne’s.
Today was Bloomsday and plenty of people were willing to smile as I said “Gorgonzola” and took their photographs on Duke Street this evening. The rain was beginning to come down, but the people enjoying the day ranged from the journalist and Joycean scholar Terence Killeen, who was a colleague in The Irish Times for many years, to a woman who said the last time she met me was on a flight from Istanbul over 15 years ago.
But for me Bloomsday began today this year in Brighton Road Methodist Church in Rathgar, close to Brighton Square, where James Joyce was born on 2 February 1882, and close to Saint Joseph’s Church in Terenure, where he was baptised three days later.
The shops and traders of Rathgar are proud of the fact that James Joyce was born in their suburb. But they celebrated Bloomsday yesterday and many of them were closed today – including the bookshop where the window was decorated with posters and copies of Ulysses, Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Finnegans Wake.
But I spent most of the afternoon in Skerries. The waters were choppy for mid-summer, and few people were out sailing.
But after lunch in the garden at the Olive on Strand Street, I had a much-needed walk close to the North Strand, and that then around the Harbour, where two seals were barking for human attention and where it was sad to see the Pier House being demolished.
We continued along the beach behind the RNLI lifeboat station, around Red Island, down the cliffs, where the waves were breaking on the rocks that are the Scylla and Charybdis of Skerries, and onto the long stretch of sand at the South Beach.
As evening approached, we drove back through Rush, where they were still playing cricket in the late afternoon lights at Kenure.
Back in the city centre, Kildare Street and many of its side streets were closed as part of the security for Michelle Obama’s visit to Dublin. But we strolled around Grafton Street and Duke Street and enjoyed the Bloomsday revelries which were continuing in the evening, before dinner in the Farm on Dawson Street.
Bloomsday is over, and, despite the approach of Midsummer’s Day later this week, it is raining in Dublin tonight. But hopefully this may still be a summer of cricket and beach walks and the sound of the waves and the sea breaking on the rocks and the sands .. and perhaps even a jug or two of Pimms.